The Cranbourne-Pakenham railway line is one of the busiest in Melbourne and patronage is expected to more than double in the next fifteen years.  The State Government has committed to a number of substantial upgrades on this line, including nine level crossing removals, an elevated railway line between Caulfield and Dandenong and five new railway stations.  At a cost of approximately $1.6 billion, the project is expected to be completed in 2018.

Last month, the Government released proposed designs for the nine crossing removals between Caulfield and Dandenong.  The proposal features sections of elevated rail and new public open spaces.

Murrumbeena Station artists impression

While the design process has involved some community consultation, many residents have been dissatisfied with the level of involvement and are now voicing their concerns through the media.  Some have opposed the proposal stating that a concrete viaduct would reduce property values and visual amenity, while others are concerned about overshadowing, noise and the creation of obscured spaces that can foster anti-social behaviour.  Others, including some planning experts, are supportive of elevated rail but have stressed the importance of a well-designed space below the viaduct.

A benefit of elevated rail compared with undergrounding, is that it provides passengers with a more enjoyable outlook.  It can also assist in connecting neighbourhoods that were once separated by at-grade railway lines, improving local connectivity and walkability.  Elevated railway lines have been successful in many other countries including in Germany, Canada and England where the area beneath the railway has been activated and integrated into the surrounding streetscape.

Sky rail artist impression

Some disadvantages with elevated railways include actual or perceived noise increases, increased visual intrusion to neighbours and areas beneath viaducts being often blighted and unsafe places.

We await more detail on this project and hope that the design of the space beneath the sky rail is well thought out and makes a valuable addition to these suburbs.  The CityLink underpasses have been criticised for their lack of connection with the community and unwelcoming appearance and we would hate to see a similar result from this project.